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Home Improvements

Refacing the Fireplace

This is what the fireplace in my home looked like when I bought the house. I do not like brass, so the fireplace surround was something I wanted to get rid of completely. The stone, actually looked more like concrete than stone, so that always bugged me a bit too.
Although Katana found fires in the fireplace intriguing, she did not care for the design either, as you can tell from the picture at left <grin>.
So one arbitrary evening, I decided to take a hammer and chisel to my fireplace. I had no clear vision on what I wanted, or even how to do it. I was just in a dismantling mood <grin>. .
You can see that when they put this in originally, they did not really seal the firebox. You can see the soot staining up the red brick.
With the fireplace surround removed, you can see that they used foam to try to seal the surround. Not a safe thing to do, but not exactly a fire hazard.
With more of the stone removed, it was obvious that the sides of the firebox were not sealed either. The only real impact this had was to stain some of the fireplace. I did take it apart slowly and carefully. This allowed me to save all the tabs that will tie the new fireplace face to the existing structure.
Now completely dismantled, I had my canvas to work with. I took measurements of the opening and tracked down a company that made custom fireplace surrounds. By working with a complete refacing, I was able to shrink the size down a couple of inches to get a better flow <meaning the fire would breathe better and burn smarter>.
Although usually a curious critter, Katana would move into the other room and just watch me work instead of checking out everything I was doing. I can just imagine how silly it must have looked to her. And it did deprive her of a fire for a few months.
Here, you can see the wooden template I made to exactly match the new fireplace surround <that's the green bit behind the wood here>. This allowed me to create a nice tight fit with the new opening. During this time, I also redid the walls in the room. It was an ugly task that took a long time to do. Most of the walls were covered with wallpaper, which is NEVER fun to take down. Other parts of the wall had an odd mix of paneling <now firewood <grin>>.
I just had to put the template into the opening, use a few bricks to hold it in place, and build around it. As you can see, the new opening will be a bit smaller than before.
You can see here how I reused the existing tie in tabs to the new face. Also, though it was overkill, I used firebrick for the entire face. The only trick here was doing only a few rows at a time so they did not settle. I stuck to 3 or 4 rows a day.
Once I got to this stage, completing the sides, I let the brick set for a week before moving on. This allowed the mortar to fully cure so I could add the angle iron for the top support.
Of course I couldn't help but put the new fireplace surround in place to get a feel for what it will look like.
To be sure that the new wall stayed straight, I used stands to help support the brick. Under that top row of brick, and spanning the entire wall, is 1/4 inch steel angle iron. It provides the support needed for the brick.
Here you can see additional rows added. While not strictly needed, I left in the supports. Better safe than sorry, I always say <grin>. At this point, I had intended to take the brick all the way to the top to cover the older red brick.
After really imagining how massive the fireplace would be if I covered all the red brick, I decided it was just too much for the room. So I stopped at this phase. I did make sure that there was enough new brick to meet the standards for fireplaces. I then put in the fireplace surround and tested out the new fireplace. Even with an oversized fire running for 14 hours, it was safe. Now I could make it look pretty.
You didn't think that after all that work I would leave that firebrick showing did you <playful grin>? I spent almost 3 months figuring out the "right" tile to use. Partly because I can be really picky, and partly because I was a little intimidated by tile work. Here you can see some of the layout work that went into the tile. I started in the middle and based the spacing off of the bull nose tile I had hanging off the front edge. From there, I laid out lines for the tile and marked the ones I needed to cut.
Laying out the first couple of rows of tile, I decided to take it slow. So I did just did a couple of rows and let it set up. I wanted to make sure that the thin set would actually adhere the tile. Yes, I had some doubt about that. It was premixed, and I followed the directions. But the thin set seemed more like wet sand than something that would stick.
After the first row dried, and STUCK <grin>, I was more confident and just kept going. Tile became much less a mystery at this point.
I just thought this was a cool picture <grin>.
Here you can see the completed hearth. I still need to remove the plastic spacers and grout, but it sure made a huge difference.
Katana pretty much napped through the entire tile process. Though I did catch her checking it out when she thought I wasn't looking <grin>.
The next "piece" of the fireplace is the tile work that goes around the fireplace surround. I used Cement board. This is easy enough to cut, but messy as all get out. I employed my truck to make a table to do the cutting on.
First, I cut it to fit the entire outside of the fireplace. Just to be sure my measurements were correct, I checked the fit out. In this picture you can also see that I added a row of small tiles along the front face of the hearth. All those bricks on the floor were to hold the tiles up and keep them from sagging.
Then I added the tile. I suppose I could have attached the cement board first, then laid the tile up against the wall. But doing it on a table was a LOT easier. The small tiles are the same ones I used on the front of the hearth. The detailed tiles not only looked cool, but tied the color of the wall, and the color of the fireplace surround together. I will admit that I had picked the detail tile before I ever thought about tiling the fireplace <grin>.
I used a combination of thin set and tapcon screws to attach the tiled board to the front of the fireplace. You'll notice that while the cement board completely covers the firebrick, there is quite a bit of it left untiled. This allowed me to use the screws and allowed for a better reveal when the mantle was attached. The fireplace stayed like this for a couple more months while I contemplated what to do for a mantle. No one was around to complain <grin> and Katana and I could still enjoy a fire <smile>.
It took a lot of looking around the web, chatting with folks online and drawing up ideas before I finally settled on a mantel design. Initially, I was going to have a big ole fancy one with carvings and what not. But the more I thought about it, the simpler I wanted it to be. The only downside to the mantle part of the project was that Katana would always leave the room and hide under the table.
For each side, I built a box that was the same height as the firebrick, and an inch from the edge of the hearth. Just simple wood frames with a plain wooden front.
You can see here that I overlapped the wood front of the boxes over the cement board to give a cleaner look.
Once the side boxes were stained, I added a very simple frame to each wood front. It breaks up the wood front and makes it "Fit" better.
On top of each of the side boxes, I added a spacer. to completely level the top piece.
Here you can see the top board in place. I should say the first top board since I stacked two of them on top of each other to get the result I wanted. You can also see that I added a piece of wood over the cement board along the top of the fireplace surround. By putting the wood on top of the cement board instead of the tile, it gives a nice, clean sense of depth to the whole tile work.
To dress up the top a bit, I used a couple layers of trim. The bottom piece I made by using several different router bits. It took longer, but I couldn't find any pre made trim I liked.
The trim is glued and nailed into place. And as any woodworker will tell you, you can never have too many clamps <grin>.
Here is a closer view of the trim from the side. You'll notice that you can still see some brick, but it gets covered later with another piece of trim. You can also still see red brick above the mantle. This took another couple of months for me to decide what to do with it.
I entertained all sorts of ideas on what do do with the still exposed red brick. Since it stood proud of the drywall, I would have had to add another layer of drywall to the entire WALL to be able to just cover it. I also considered leaving it <ugh> as a testament of what came before, or adding a giant mirror <yes, it would have made the room seem bigger, but again , ugh>, I even thought about a giant painting <decent idea, but too overpowering in my opinion>. Then one day at the hardware store, I saw this beautiful stained piece of wood. It was on sale because no one wanted it <fools> so I even got it on the cheap. There is nothing wrong with the wood, it just has that cool dark pattern to it. So I bought it, with people giving me funny looks. I added a simple frame using the trim detail I used on the mantle, there it is <grin>. I was really glad I found that piece, it makes the fireplace for me <smile>. All told, I spent close to 2 years on this project. Most of that time was delays while I figured out what I wanted <grin>.




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